Bring back confinement and allow pregnant women to suffer in peace. And with servants.
I’m fairly ambivalent about the news that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant. It’s welcome news for them but has very little relevance to my life.
I do feel sorry, however, to hear she has been hospitalised with hyperemisis gravidarum, an excessive form of sickness beyond the common symptom of morning sickness. Sufferers often can’t even keep water down which is obviously a worry when someone is pregnant.
“Pregnancy isn’t a illness” I often hear, usually from men, and usually right after they have finished telling me that their wife cycled right up until the day she gave birth.
Well, I’d like to counter the notion that pregnancy isn’t an illness. Yes, there are some people who suffer no symptoms, experience increased energy and even “bloom”. But every pregnancy is different. Mine wasn’t even a difficult pregnancy and I suffered many problems.
First there was the morning sickness. If you’ve never suffered the best way I can describe it is like a hangover, nausea, headache interspersed with raging hunger for very specific food stuffs. A hunger that if not satisfied in the space of 10 minutes turns back into stomach churning nausea. I remember crying in the middle of Waitrose because they didn’t have the pasta sauce I was craving. Fortunately it was Waitrose where crying is considered mildly eccentric. If it was Asda, which is my post-children haunt, they might have called social services. If you felt that sick outside of pregnancy you wouldn’t be expected to go to work and function normally. But pregnancy isn’t an illness!
Then there are the cramps; shooting pains through your calf waking you from an already fitful sleep straight into excruciating agony. That’s when you are not suffering from insomnia which makes you bone shatteringly tired. And tearful. I cried on the pharmacist in Boots when she refused to sell me even a herbal sleeping aid. “It’s preparation for when the baby comes” people would say without a trace of irony. I didn’t need preparation, I needed more than 3 hours sleep a night to prepare myself for getting no more than 3 hours sleep a night for the three months after the baby was born. If you can sleep between the cramps and the insomnia is a broken by a constant urge to wee, and every time you get out of bed, or just want to turn over a military operation ensues to reposition multitudinous pillows holding up the sagging parts of your body.
Another early pregnancy ailment I had was sacroiliac joint problems. When you become pregnant all of your ligaments soften which mean it is easy to damage them. At one point, even before I weighed the same as a baby elephant, I could barely put my feet on the ground because of the pain in my sacroiliac joint. I rather embarrassingly had to be rescued from a residential course I was on with work, by my mum!
Heartburn, piles, itchy skin, not to mention a mental health so fragile you make Michael Jackson look normal. Plus the heart stopping fear that grips you when you worry that something might go wrong. Then the equally blood chilling fear when you thing that what if it actually all does go right and you end up with a baby – then what the frig do you do?
So you’ve carried round a squirming parasite using just your abdominal muscles for 9 months. Then you have to get said parasite out of your body. I’m not going to dwell on the excruciating pain and fear that often accompanies labour, suffice to say for those who have never tried it, imagine pushing an orange up your nostril and you have an approximation of the experience. “That’s they call it labour dear” is a favoured quote from a midwife.
Finally, many people forget that after labour there is the recovery, often major stitching right on the most delicate of body parts, those you spend a lot of time resting your weight on. Or in the case of c sections you learn just how much you used those stomach muscles on a day to day basis for things like getting out of bad. And coughing. Ah yes, coughing and sneezing. Best not to risk either with a full bladder after pregnancy has had its way with your pelvic floor. Oh how we laugh at the Tena Lady adverts. Less funny when you quite literally crap your knickers in front of your husband because things ain’t holding up down there any more.
I paint a bleak picture of pregnancy don’t I? I’m sure there are some positives to it, but I can’t really think of any right now. Except I recently saw a picture of myself when I was pregnant and my skin and hair looked AMAZING. But I totally didn’t appreciate it because I was spending most of the time trying not to vomit. Or fall asleep in the loos at work (don’t get me started on my irrational fear of going into labour at work.
Everyone’s experience is different, some people will sail through pregnancy, making those of us who suffered with it feel pretty crap and inadequate. All I ask is that people remember that growing a life inside of us is a pretty complicated and exhausting business with many complications, some which I have not even mentioned. I hope that the media leave the Duchess of Cambridge to herself during this time, and refrain from commenting on her behaviour, her appearance, and other private matters surrounding her body. To be admitted to hospital for hyperemisis is no laughing matter, she must be feeling dreadful. And the knowledge that cameras and journalists are camped outside the hospital must just be adding to the stress.
As for me, would I do pregnancy again? Not if I can help it. I loathed every minute of it. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I have two amazing miracles of nature that I grew for nine months and fed exclusively for 6 months after that, carrying on nursing till they were both over 13 months.
But pregnancy is not an illness? My torn and sewn up back side it’s not.